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Group criticizes state’s wish list for transportation projects

California officials are counting on Washington to inject billions of dollars in transportation money to help revive the state economy. But a public advocacy group said the state’s wish list of projects would undermine efforts to repair and modernize the state’s crumbling infrastructure and reduce U.S. dependence on oil.

The California Public Interest Research Group reports that the state plans to spend 31% of road money on creating new capacity instead of addressing long-deferred maintenance and repair projects. By contrast, the group said, Massachusetts would commit 100% of its road funds to repairs.

“We can’t afford to waste precious resources on new highways at the expense of ready-to-go projects to repair and maintain existing roads and bridges and expand public transportation,” said spokeswoman Erin Steva.

The group also faulted the California Department of Transportation’s list, saying that only 37% of the funds would flow to public transportation. The group called for a higher percentage, citing the record ridership on California’s mass transit systems, which have been hit by severe cutbacks in recent years. The proposed percentage is less than what is being planned in Tennessee, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, CALPIRG said.

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Caltrans spokesman Benjamin DeLanty defended the list, saying that it was an initial response to a request from members of Congress for possible projects and may change as federal legislation and state needs evolve.

“We note that the list provided included a fairly even distribution among capital, maintenance and mass transportation projects,” DeLanty said. “However, that list continues to be a work in progress and is not definitive.”

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com


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